Giving Back Q&A with Steven Ketchpel


What’s the biggest mistake people make when donating?Giving-Back-book-Stephen-Ketchpel-volunteering-donating-good-neighbor-stories

I had an inkling Steven P. Ketchpel, Ph.D., Bay Area author of Giving Back, would have a very good answer. His well-written and thought-out guidebook helps readers through the process of figuring out their passions and interests, as well as through the planning, implementation, and follow-up of any donation or project.

As a follow-up to my review of his book, he agreed to answer that question and a few more about donating and volunteering.

Good Neighbor Stories: What’s the feedback from readers been like for the book?

Ketchpel: I love hearing back from readers (, and have heard stories of action inspired by the book:  starting to volunteer on a new project, having a discussion about values with their family, or making loans through Kiva.  I’ve also heard from experienced volunteer/leaders who love the book—one described it as a “yellow brick road” with “simple, easy steps we can take to create something important.”

What’s the biggest mistake people make when making donations? What’s the number one thing they can do to avoid mistakes in the future? [Read more…]

Giving Back: Great Guidebook for Volunteering, Donating Decisions


If you’ve ever struggled with where to volunteer your time, or the most efficient way to donate money, Giving Back by Steven P. Ketchpel, Giving-Back-book-Stephen-Ketchpel-volunteering-donating-good-neighbor-storiesPh.D., is the book for you.

Underscore that advice if you have kids and have always wanted to find ways to volunteer as a family, or teach life lessons about the value of donating to causes you care about.

Ketchpel is a San Francisco Bay Area computer scientist and entrepreneur who grew up in a family dedicated to giving back to the community. He writes that even before he was born his parents were very involved in church, Scouting, and spreading kindness throughout their neighborhood. He grew up in Boy Scouts, and when it came time for his Eagle Project he helped his church modernize by computerizing membership records.

Uncovering Passions and Creating Plans

When I first met Ketchpel in December, he described the book to me as a sort of a What Color is Your Parachute for volunteering and donating. In other words, a guidebook to help users discover their passions and create strategic plans for service and giving away money. [Read more…]

Be Kind by Thinking Globally, Donating Locally


Today’s Random Act of Kindness Week assignment is to donate either time or money to a local charity. I like this one, because it shines a light Yasmine-Davis-Make-a-Birthday-Wish-Good-Neighbor-Stories-Random-Acts-of-Kindness-Weekon those nonprofit organizations that serve our communities day in and day out, many times without the recognition or larger donations that benefit big name national and international groups.

Good Neighbor Stories often features small nonprofits making a big impact while operating on shoestring budgets here in the San Francisco Bay Area. On Wednesday two groups, The Grateful Garment Project, and Good Karma Bikes were part of my “Profiles in Kindness” post.

I’ve also written about other small nonprofits like Make a Birthday Wish in Cupertino, led by teenager Yasmine Davis and her family. Together with Yasmine’s friends as volunteers, they throw birthday parties for Silicon Valley children whose families are homeless or in deep financial need, complete with gifts, cake, decorations, favors, and fun activities.

Another great example of a small group making a big difference is Project WeHope in East Palo Alto. Pastor Paul Bains [Read more…]

Kindness is Good for the Heart


Call it a Valentine’s Day/National Heart Health Month/Random Acts of Kindness Week mashup. Today’s post for Day 4 of Random Acts of heart-shaped-tomato-random-acts-of-kindness-week-kindness-is-good-for-your-heartKindness Week is all about why kindness is good for your heart.

I always assumed that kindness is good not only for the world at large, but for us personally. I know for me I always feel good inside when I offer kindness from a true and pure place, not just emotionally, but spiritually, and physically. I get a little lift in my mood, and my step is a little lighter. I’ve extrapolated that since I feel good in the moment, something must be going on inside my body that is inherently healthy.

Turns out there is solid research that confirms that assumption. And that research not only points to a momentary benefit, but a long-lasting benefit of a healthier heart when kindness is practiced regularly. David R. Hamilton, Ph.D., author of Why Kindness is Good for You, says keeping up acts of kindness will reduce your risk of heart disease over time, at least a little. [Read more…]

Profiles in Kindness


For Day 3 of Random Acts of Kindness Week, I’m sharing a few examples of people who are all about showing kindness to others.  They are Jacob-Goeders-Leukemia-Slayer-Santa-Slayer-Project-kindness-good-neighbor-storiespeople that see a need and try to fill it, and naturally feel compassion toward people facing difficult circumstances.

Take a moment to read about these kind folks, and consider where you might see a need that could be filled. In the meantime, you can try today’s Random Acts of Kindness Foundation assignment by reaching out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time. Circle back and let me know how it goes, or share any other act of kindness you perform or encounter.

There’s a link to the full story at the end of each profile. Also, take a look at my posts for Day 1 and Day 2 of Random Acts of Kindness Week 2013 for more inspiration.

Jacob Goeders

The first profile in kindness is a young man who is extremely pure in heart, and filled with courage despite the challenges he faces. He is Jacob Goeders, better known as The Leukemia Slayer.

Jacob is an 11-year-old boy in a multi-year battle with leukemia. I met Jacob back in December 2011 at a Christmas event for children with serious illnesses. He shared with me about how he asked his 2,000 friends on his Leukemia Slayer Facebook page to send in a $1 each, so he could buy presents for the other kids on the oncology ward. It seems he had been diagnosed the year before around Christmastime, and he knew how difficult it was to be stuck in the hospital undergoing painful treatments. [Read more…]

‘Random Acts of Kindness’ Has Bay Area Roots


As we celebrate Day 2 of Random Acts of Kindness Week, it’s interesting to note that the term ‘random acts of kindness’, which is now so firmly planted in our collective cultural mind, was born right here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Writer and peace activist Anne Herbert is widely recognized as the person who coined the phrase, “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” She reportedly wrote the phrase on a Sausalito restaurant place mat in 1982 or 1983. Because it turned the well-used terms “random acts of violence” and “senseless acts of violence” on their heads, many people found it instantly inspiring. Before Internet memes, it became a popular saying on bumper stickers, posters, and more.

Thirty years later Random Acts of Kindness Week and Day are gaining popularity, with more and more people and organizations wanting to promote awareness of how important spreading kindness for kindness’ sake.

Yesterday’s assignment from the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation was to smile at 10 strangers. Today’s assignment: buy something for the person in line behind you. The above video will serve as the perfect inspiration. If you try it, let me know how it goes!

For more inspiration, see our Be Kind: Kindness Ideas Page.


Show a Little Kindness During Random Acts of Kindness Week 2013


It’s time for Random Acts of Kindness Week, which is celebrated today through next Sunday, Feb. 17. Consider focusing a little time on showing kindness to others in either small or big ways, and join in on a national wave of spreading cheer.

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If you’re looking for some prompts to get you started, we have an entire page dedicated to kindness called Be Kind: Kindness Ideas. The page includes links to past articles I’ve posted on the topic, as well as links to organizations that feature hundreds of ideas. [Read more…]

Not #onemorebox of Girl Scout Cookies


not-one-more-box-girl-scout-cookies-childhood-obesity-good-neighbor-storiesFriday is “National Girl Scout Cookie Day”, a huge media blast to alert the country to the fact that it’s time for the mega fundraising sale. The Scouts are rolling out new apps you can download to your iPhone or Android so you can find the nearest sale. There are videos, a blog, and even a way to track the cookie truck as it delivers its precious cargo in New York City.

And of course in today’s social media-driven world, there’s a one-day Facebook posting contest, and cookie lovers are encouraged to post to Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram with the hashtag of #onemorebox. As in, why you think everyone should buy one more box of Girl Scout Cookies.

I love Girl Scout Cookies as much as the next American, but I won’t buy one more box.

I made the decision last year to never buy a box of Girl Scout Cookies again. I wrote why I believe it’s time for America’s youth organizations to step up as leaders and say “no more” to children and youth selling fat- and sugar-laden foods as a fundraising mechanism in the face of a serious childhood obesity epidemic. [Read more…]

Five Ways to be a Good Neighbor in February


Courtesy of the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

Ready to show some loving kindness this month? February is the month for both love and kindness. We show our love for those near and dear to us on Valentine’s Day. That same week is Random Acts of Kindness Week, when we’re encouraged to engage in acts of kindness to others in the community.

Here are five ways you can show some kindness to others in the San Francisco Bay Area, or get to know your neighbors a little better by expanding your cultural awareness. Have any more suggestions to add? Share them in the comments section!

1) Celebrate Lunar New Year: The Lunar New Year is Sunday, Feb. 10, ushering in the Year of the Snake. Cultural events are taking place all over the San Francisco Bay Area from Feb. 2 to Feb. 24, with the popular Chinese New Year Parade rolling through downtown San Francisco on Saturday, Feb. 23. A complete calendar for the Chinese New Year Festival and Parade is available online. The Stanford-Pan Asian Music Festival is welcoming the new year Feb. 8-10, at the university’s new Bing Concert Hall. Look for other events, including many family-friendly happenings, at local libraries, community centers, and cultural centers. Los Altos Patch has a great list.

2) Check Out a Festival That’s for the Birds: The 17th annual San Francisco Bay Flyway Festival is happening Feb. 8-10 at Mare Island, a former Naval base on a peninsula located near Vallejo. More than 60 walks and guided tours are available to see all the birds and wildlife found there; an art exhibit, silent auction, and other events are also scheduled. This is a unique opportunity to see this important nature preserve up close. See the festival website for more information. [Read more…]